A Washington woman who was mauled by a pitbull, has been awarded $2.2 million in damages through a dog bite lawsuit that partially blamed the county where she lived for not taking action against the animal, which was allegedly a known threat.
The complaint was brought by Sue Gorman, who was injured in her home when a loose pitbull entered an open patio door and attacked her two Jack Russell terriers. Gorman was bitten when she tried to pull the pitbull off of her dogs.
A Washington state jury found the dog’s owners to be 52 percent responsible for the animal attack, but they also found Pierce County to be 42% at fault for not responding to more than a dozen complaints by residents who feared the dog was a threat to public safety before the incident. Gorman was assigned 1% of the blame for her own injuries.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that approximately 300,000 people receive medical treatment for dog bites each year, and that likely only represents a small percentage of the actual number of bite injuries, since many are not reported.
A study published by the CDC in 2000, indicated that pitbull-type breeds were the cause of one-third of all reported dog attack deaths between 1979 and 1998, with 118 pit bull attack deaths. Rottweillers were found to be the second highest, with 67 Rottweiler attack deaths during the time period.
Dog bite lawsuits are typically filed against animal owners for failing to take reasonable steps to control or contain their animal, particularly if they have displayed a prior propensity to attack. Unfortunately, many dog owners do not have insurance coverage for such attacks, especially in urban areas with higher numbers of rental properties. In some cases, other entities, such as local municipalities or apartment complexes have been found liable for animal attacks where they failed to take steps to protect residents from a known vicious animal, but such verdicts are rare.